School Leadership Reimagined - How to deal with your Haters

Are you focusing on the “means” more than the “ends?”

VIEW THE SHOW NOTES FOR THIS EPISODE

Note: School Leadership Reimagined is produced as a podcast and designed to be listened to, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that's not on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 158.

How do builders like us make a dramatic difference in the lives of our students in spite of all the obstacles we face? How do you keep your vision for your school from being held hostage by resistant teachers, uncooperative parents, ridiculous district policies or lack of time, money or resources. If you're facing those challenges right now, here's where you'll find the answers, strategies, and actionable tips you need to overcome any obstacle you face. You don't have to wait to make a difference in the lives of the people you serve. You can turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Let's get started.

Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson.

And today, I had planned to release our summer reading list. I've been working on it for a while. We've got some great non education books for you. But a lot has happened this week. And I just really felt compelled to make this week's episode about something different.

So don't worry, the summer reading list is coming. It's ready, we're going to release that. But I don't know, I just I sat down to do this podcast. And I didn't have the energy for it. My energy has just been depleted by all of the bad news going on in the world. There was the school shooting in Texas, the shooting at the grocery store in Buffalo, and something else that I've been seeing online lately that's really bothering me.

So would you indulge me today, if I just talk about something that happened to me this week, that's got me thinking, because I think it might have some it may be you may be able to relate to it too. So I'm not going to go to I don't have an outline, I don't have a script. But I just want to talk to you a little bit about how to handle your haters.

Now, one of the things we do anytime you're doing something important in the world, anytime you're putting out new ideas, or you're trying to move things forward, and you do something good in the world, you are going to have your share of haters, it is a fact of life. And so I don't think any of us are naive and thinking that we are going to be hater free. I mean, you can't do something that moves the world forward without people sitting back and you know, kind of, you know, judging you and saying mean things to you and throwing rocks at you because what you're doing, what you're building is making other people uncomfortable because it challenges their status quo.

People who don't want to move forward in the world will often try to hold you back. 

Because what you're building challenges their, you know, closely held notions about about why they can't do something. So I'm used to that. I was a teacher, I've been cussed out by parents, I as an administrator, part of the job, I was had an unhappy parent. And I worked in a place that was particularly litigious. And so I had some really nasty encounters with parents. When I first started, mine steps, and I started going out and doing professional development. You know, I used to say to my team all the time, you know, educators are some of the toughest audiences out there. And so I had to learn how to win over the audience. When I was doing full day PDS, half the time, they weren't even mad at me, they were mad at the school district. They didn't know me, but they came with, you know, pre disposed a predisposition to kind of hate whatever it was, I was going to present because they were mad that they had to be there in the first place, or because there was something else happening in the school district. I had to learn how to deal with that.

And then when I started writing books, you know, I got my share of nasty book reviews or, you know, nasty comments on an online article I might have written, sometimes the comments were, were particularly mean spirited. And I could tell that the person hadn't even read the article, and they just wanted to say something mean, and, you know, I've done workshops and get the forms that come back, you know, the the workshop surveys, you know, or I'll do something at a conference and, you know, they'll share the surveys with me and, you know, those surveys could be great. I could have 100 great jobs and one person writes a snarky comment, and it could floor me and I've been trying to do develop more of a thick skin around some of these things, but it's hard. I mean, we're human, and especially when you pour yourself into the work. And I imagine that's the case for many of you.

So when you become a builder, when you believe passionately, in your vision, your mission, your core values, it's almost scary to put that out into the world because you feel vulnerable to the haters. You know, one of the questions that a lot of people in build a ship University ask is that after they've created this vision, and they have their vision set, and they're excited about their vision, they worry about sharing that vision for success for 100% of our students, with their teachers, because they're worried that their teachers are going to shoot it down. They're worried that if they say this aloud in their district, their district, it's going to shoot them down, which is just crazy, right? Because this fear is legitimate.

I mean, it's, it's crazy that you could believe, and state I believe 100% of our kids can be successful. Why would anybody argue with that, and yet they do. People try to discourage you all the time from actually pursuing that, that success event for 100% of your students. And it's baffling to me as to why everybody doesn't believe that way. And people would rather shoot down your vision, then build one of their own, they'd rather shoot down your vision than join you in pursuing it. And so it can be really scary to take the step to be a builder, because when you do, you will attract haters. So something happened to me this week. Now, I've had my share of those things.

I should be better at this by now. But these things can still floor me. 

And it's pretty innocuous concern, considering some of the stories that I've been hearing lately. But it it forced me to kind of take a step back and realize that, that there were some things that I still needed to work on. And, and so anyway, let me just tell you this story, I posted something in an online forum this week. It was about a podcast that I've done recently on exit interviews, and I wrote a post about how exit interviews were often overlooked by building principals. But this is the time of the year where you have teachers who are leaving. And so you, you know, I was encouraging people to do exit interviews. And so, you know, I was worried about kind of being, you know, kind of spammy, I guess, and just saying, so hey, listen to my podcasts. But so I put it in there. And I was just like, you know, who wants the link? Let me know, if you want the link, and I'll send it to you. I was also experimenting, quite frankly, because I find that I put a lot of stuff out on social media, and it's just kind of out there in the ether, what I'm really interested in having conversations with educators. And so I wanted only the people who wanted the link to reach out, you know, to say, Hey, I'd like I'm interested in this, I can send them a link. And then we could start a conversation. They could circle back around and say, Hey, did you ever try the extra views? Enter interviews? How did it go when, you know, we can have these conversations? I want it more connection.

So I did this experiment. I posted on my page. And then I posted it in two principal groups that I am a part of, because I want that conversation. Well, the response was overwhelmingly positive. People were saying, Yeah, I want that guy to haven't thought about that. That's a great idea. And I'm sending the guides, and we're having these great conversations, I'm meeting new people, I'm making new, you know, friends on Facebook. And one person wrote a comment that said, this is spam. And then afterwards wrote something else, I don't even understand what the rest of the sentence was about. I was so confused when when I saw the comment, this is spam. And then the rest was like, we already have something. I was like, this post is even talking about the thing that he talked about. And so I wrote back and I said, when I'm not understanding, are you saying is this comment about my posts itself? Or it's a comment about exit interviews, like you don't agree that we should be doing exit interviews. And he wrote back, this is spam. And then a couple of other people jumped in. It was like, hey, look, you don't agree with the pose. But look, don't be mean. And he just kept doubling down. She's pitching something. This is spam. And, look, I've had those comments before.

I don't know if it's just I'm raw emotionally from everything else. But it just hurt. 

I just ended up closing down my laptop for the day. Instead of you know, a moment ago, I was having these great conversations. I was meeting new people. We were talking about exit interviews, I'm sending people stuff in in their DMS I'm making new friends and I'm so excited about it and the next moment, I just don't want anything to do with it. And I just said you know what, I'll just stick to posting this kind of stuff on my personal Facebook page because, you know, these people are it's these people are mean out here in the streets, and then I've cycled through While the motions right so I, you know, I went from being confused like why up? What do you attack me out I actually went back through the forum and I saw people who were actively pitching, you know, their programs or their conferences in the form, not one comment from this guy. So why did he why was it that my post triggered this spam accusation, I couldn't understand it. And then from there, then I started getting mad, right, I started getting angry. And I said, How was he gonna look, this is a good post, I'm serving people. And I just, you know, I have this impulse that I wanted to slam dunk on this guy. And I don't know, I mean, I guess you can take the girl out of DC, but sometimes you can't take the DC out of the girl. I mean, he doesn't know who he's talking to here, and I wanted to, you know, go back and really slam dunk on him. And then I start getting defensive.

You know, here I am trying to do something good and share a resource and, you know, try to help people, some people just can't be helped. And I'll just, you know, keep this to the people. You know, this is this is just for builders only. And, uh, you know, what, there and then, you know, I just, I just thought, you know, it's like, my, I just, I'm not going to post on this forum, these people to meet over here, you know, I did all the things. Now, listen, at the end of the day, this is a pretty trivial comment. I don't know this guy. You know, maybe he's having a bad day. I don't know. But I you know, it's a very trivial thing. But when I started thinking about my overreaction, to what, in the grand scheme of things is something pretty silly. I started thinking about you, I started thinking about how mean things have become in general, I started thinking about the builders that I support inside of builder ship University has started thinking about how so many of them are dealing with the exact same thing. Only it's worse.

Parents nowadays, there's a certain group of parents, I'm not even sure they're all parents, sometimes they're outside actors, who have become especially nasty in their attacks on schools. They're attacking your teachers, they're attacking you, over issues that that have less to do with education and more to do with their own political ideology. How many of you this year, were attacked, because you either were wearing masks, or you weren't wearing masks? How many of you have been unfairly and viciously attacked because you're just trying to teach history, and people are accusing you of trying to make their students feel bad about something like slavery, how many of you have been attacked because of your school's COVID protocols, or lack thereof. And it's not that people are just disagreeing ideologically with, with your approach to education, those attacks have often become personal, those attacks have become mean spirited, those attacks have become obstructionist. Not only that, but not the attacks aren't just coming from the outside.

They're also coming from your own staff, because they're frustrated.

I can't tell you how many times this year I've done PD, and people who would normally under under normal circumstances be engaging in, you know, really interesting, maybe even spirited conversation about a particular concept have immediately gone nasty. You know, I was I was doing a PD earlier this year. And I don't know if I told you all about this. But you know, somebody said, listen, Robyn, you know, you have not been in the school in a long time. So you don't really know what you're talking about. You know, a one and she's right, I have not been in one school and a long time as the administrator, but in hundreds. And so while I don't share the position, I have another perspective that I can bring to the table, that that's not available to her. Her perspective is no longer available to me, because I'm not a principal. But my perspective is not available to her because she's only thinking about her one school and not about hundreds of schools. And so rather than then understanding that, you know, I'm very careful about making sure that my perspective recognizes the fact that I am no longer in one single school, and things have changed. And so I tried to be careful about that, rather than recognizing that on her part, she just immediately attacked me because what I was saying and talking to her about doing was making her uncomfortable.

That's where we become that's who we've become, as educators, you know, right now, you're not only facing these outside attacks, you're also facing them inside teachers who are accusing you of, of, of not caring teachers who are saying to you how would you know you're no longer In the classroom, you don't know what you're doing. Teachers who are you know, having those back channel conversations that skewer you on a on a on a decision that you've made or decision that was outside of, of your ability to control. And so our culture's are becoming nasty. And what is so ironic about all of this is that people are so hurt when a parent or student treats them a certain way. But they will choose those same tactics to attack you. People who are educators who who talk all the time about how mean spirited some parents can be, will use that same level of mean spirited Ness, mean spirited Ness, did I just make that word up, but you that same level of meanness when they are disagreeing with you about a decision you're making, that's, you believe is going to serve kids.

So I thought I'd talk today about how I dealt with that one situation, but how I learned a lesson in doing so that that may help you when you're dealing with your own haters. Because unfortunately, it looks like things are getting worse, not better. Our conversations are no longer civil. And now the people can slam dunk on each other online and be applauded for it now that the people can say horrible things to each other without consequence, in many cases, all of a sudden, now our discourse has not become civil. People feel empowered and even entitled to make their their disagreement with your ideas, more personal, and more mean spirited and more vitriolic. And so we need to find a way to deal with it. Because unfortunately, things don't look like they're getting better.

So here's how I dealt with it. 

You know, close my laptop, when had dinner with my husband. Later on. I was I was praying. And it occurred to me, you know, and I was praying about like, why is this bothering me so much? Why does this random person I don't know, why is this person good? Why did I give this person the power to take all the joy that I was experiencing from engaging with all these new people, and turn it ugly and nasty, as some thoughts about that, you know, one of the things that I think that I am personally hyper aware of is that when I left the classroom and the schoolhouse and started mine steps, I was always very sensitive to the fact or to the accusation that I was just chasing dollars, and that I didn't care about education, because if I really cared, I would have stayed in a building. And so I've, I have a hang up around that I never want that to be the accusation. I never want to live that out.

So when this guy accuse me of pitching, especially because mine steps is a business, and there are some people who you know, will respond to that post and eventually join us and build a ship University. I was worried that that characterization that I've always tried to avoid, this guy was now putting turning me into that person by his accusation. So there was some personal stuff there that I think, bothered me. But the more I started praying about that and thinking about it, I remember something my uncle said to me once he said, it's not what people do is what they do next, that matters. And I apply that to myself. It's, it's not so much, you know, this initial response, yes, I need to work with that. I need to be careful about allowing that that the touch point, that sensitivity point in me from from holding me back, right.

So there's work I've got to do there. But my response was important. You know, I felt I had to respond, I couldn't just let this person go in. And there was a part of me that was very ego driven in that, that that needs respond. I was like, How is this person coming in on my post uninvited, and making an accusation without grounds? You know, somebody else, you know, my friend, Brunico Fellay, who just is amazing, jumped in and he said, you know, how are you you know, who are you to come in? This is a valuable post and another friend, Jana Varone. She jumped in as well and, you know, kind of went at this guy on my behalf. And I remember Rudy put something up about like, How dare you and this guy says she's pitching something. And I thought, okay, let's pretend that I am pitching something. That's not spam. Spam is very different from that. And first of all, I wasn't pitching anything in the post. So it's just hey, I'll send you the link to this, this podcast, and I just sent people the link. I wasn't like, hey, no, here's a link and join build a ship University. No, here's something to the podcast. Let me know if you find it helpful. That's all I did. But even if I was pitching my program, why is that criminal? And so I wanted to respond. And, you know, the the mastery, different person in me wanted to like pull up a definition of spam and show him how ignorant his post was. And you know, so then I start questioning why don't want to do that. And that's really about my ego that is feeling attacked and feeling the need to defend myself. But when I really thought about it, I said, that's not going to solve the problem, right? Why am I arguing with somebody who didn't even read Baba to read the post? For somebody who's just throwing out accusations? Why am I arguing with them? But the other part of me said, well, I need to respond in some way because other people are watching, right? If I just ignore him, there are other people that who could be served by this post who may not do something because they're watching they, he they may read his thing and say, Oh, this is spam. Okay, maybe I won't do this. And then they don't do an exit interview, they don't do something else later on down the line. Plus, I was like, you know, I can't have this guy trailing me around on on the internet, you know, trolling me every time I write. And somebody will say, Well, why don't you block them all? I couldn't, why, if he's on my page, I can block him, but he's not on my page. And so I thought about that. And I thought about you. I mean, how many times have you been attacked publicly, and you feel like you have to respond. There's some times when it is perfectly appropriate to ignore the person to block Delete. But when the person attacks you in a way that can't be ignored? How do you respond? So I thought about a lot more. And as I was praying, I was thinking about it. And then it came to me the advice that I give you all the time, which is that you need to anchor in your outcome.

You need to anchor in the outcome. 

You see, if a little tiny post, comment on a post that I made, could throw me off that much. If I could waste all that time and energy trying to think about how to respond to somebody that does not matter to the work that I'm doing, then I've wasted time thinking about the work, and I've wasted it on thinking about something that doesn't matter. How many times have you done that? Again, my situation is minor. I know some of you are dealing with way more personal attacks, people have told me people are, you know, Daxing you they're like going and doing this Freedom of Information Act and pulling your documents out and trying to you know, go through every email you send with a fine tooth, tooth comb to find a way to tear you down, people are putting, you know, a libelous post about you online, people are calling you names, teachers are our you know, they have a back channel and they're, they're talking about your policies and mischaracterizing them. People are calling unions on you, like you're dealing with real stuff, I'm dealing with the trolls, on Facebook, you're dealing with real stuff.

So how do you respond because that stuff, the more energy you spend on it, the less energy you're spending building your school, and yet you can't ignore it. So how do you deal with it? And the answer came in something I tell you all the time, anchor in your purpose. There are times when you can't ignore it, where you have to respond. How do you respond in a way that that both aligns with who you are, and also moves your work forward? How do you respond in a way that keeps somebody from derailing your work? How do you turn that ugliness into something beautiful, because that's what builders do.

And so, the first thing I did is I said, What is my vision, and my vision is to help everybody who I serve, achieve their vision in three years old is not there yet. It's taking some people longer, they're making great progress. It's taking them longer. So I'm still figuring that out. But that's the vision. That's, that's why that's that's the work that I'm doing right now. So how can I turn that? How can I respond in a way that would help people achieve their vision in three years or less? That's one of reasons why I'm doing this podcast. My mission is that I believe every child deserves to be successful in school. So my mission is to build classrooms, in schools where every child can be successful, which meant that if I responded to him in a way that was ugly, then I am taking myself off mission and that every child part if I responded to him in a way that engaged in some nastiness, somebody else who's watching gets drawn into that as well. And that doesn't work. And if I responded to if I ignored him and didn't deal with like every single person, then how can I say, well, this person you dismissed but you have to deal with every single child so I have to find a way The to kind of really deal with it and make sure that that I stay on mission that it has to be about what can I do to help every child be successful, because frankly, this person is an educator, this person is dealing with somebody's children. So I gotta find a way for every child.

Now my core values, drama free work environment, figure it out, do the right thing, even if it hurts, you've heard those before, those are mine steps, core values. But I have a personal core value that is that plays well. And the personal core value is to leave everyone and everything better than I found them. That's, that's my personal core values. It, it drives me I don't always, I don't always live up to it. But that is non negotiable for me. So what it meant was that I had to make sure that this situation doesn't leave me or anybody else worse, it leaves them better. I had to make sure that the response that I created would be drama free, wouldn't create more drama. So I can't argue with this guy. That's more drama, right? I had to make sure that I figured it out. I couldn't just let it sit there and bother me, I need to figure out how to deal with it. And I needed to do the right thing, even if it hurt and hurting meant that I couldn't respond personally, that hurt me, right. But the right thing was not to do that in this situation. And so that hurt. But that was that's what I had to do. And when I sifted the situation, through my vision, mission and core values, the response that I came up with was, this is an opportunity.

Because a lot of times people look at me and they think oh, well, you know, well, you you know, you're a builder. You've been doing this for a long time you have all the answers. I don't you figured it all out, I haven't. And so this was an opportunity for me to be vulnerable to let me know, I get it too, I still get thrown off by that kind of nasty comment. I it still bothers me, I haven't figured it out yet. I'm human, it does hurt. And so when that happens, this is the way that I've learned to fight through that hurt so that I content can continue to fight for kids. Because maybe there's something in here that you can, you can use, because you're fighting for kids to the reason you even listen to this podcast is because you're a builder. And as a builder, you are challenging people, you're inviting people to come into and step out of their current reality and come into and help you build something better. And that's going to make some people uncomfortable. And when they get uncomfortable, rather than examining themselves and understanding why they're uncomfortable and stepping out of where they are and joining you in building something better for kids, they're gonna get me they're gonna get nasty, and they're going to attack you. If it hasn't happened already. It will. I wish I could tell you how to stop it. But I don't know how to stop it. The only thing I do know is that when it happens, notice I said when not if, when it happens, your solution is not the solution of a boss, a boss would just try to shut them down your solution is not the solution of a leader, a leader would try to reason or you know, prove or defend themselves or rationalize your response.

The only one that's going to work when you are being hit by some vitriol from one of your haters is to anchor in your vision, mission and core values. Double down on it. 

I can't tell you how to respond in every situation. But I can tell you this. If you respond in a way that aligns with your vision, your mission, your core values, then this incident with someone who's being hateful towards you can be turned into something that actually advances your vision forward. So the reason I wanted to do the podcast today was because I want to turn well it's a tough you know, situation in the midst of a very emotionally draining week especially with with with what's with the mass shooting of those, those 19 students and two teachers in Texas on the heels of the mass shooting of the shoppers in in that in that supermarket and buffalo on the heels of all of this, everything that's happening in the world. It can be draining. You know, we just I was telling someone the other day we just were not built to metabolize this kind of tragedy. I don't even know what to say or do about it. I don't have any solutions. I just feel bereft. And when I'm feeling depleted and bereft on top of that, I get it what feels like a very personal and targeted attack? And how do you deal with all of that? How do you how do you how do you handle all of that and still get up every single day? And keep building? 

So if you're struggling with that, too, if that's on your plate right now, if you have a set of haters who are trying to derail your work, and you're exhausted and you're tired, the answer is and your vision, mission and core values. Don't let anybody don't let anybody. Rob you have your vision, your vision was hard fought and hard won, it's yours. And there are going to be people who would rather tear your vision down, then do what's right for kids. Don't let them rob you of your vision. In fact, your response can actually move your vision forward. Don't let anybody take you off mission. Feel your feelings? For when you're done. Go back to your mission. What is it that you exist to do? What is it is, what good are you trying to do in the world and do that, don't let anybody turn your non negotiable core values into something that's non negotiable. Your core values are non negotiable, stick to those. And when you do that, when you when you sift your reaction through your vision, mission and core values, you'll know what to do next. And it will always be the right thing.

At the end of the day, the moment you decided to become a builder, you put a big target on your back. Because you have decided to step away from the status quo into the possibilities that exist for your students. And it's going to make people nervous, you're going to be under attack. I wish I could stop it, I wish I could change it. And I'm not telling you to ignore it. Because it's hard to ignore, especially when the attacks become nasty and personal. I'm not telling you to just you know, brush it off and keep building because we're human, they hurt. But I am telling you that if you really want to deal with your haters, and turn their haterade into something that actually advances the work, so that at the end of the day, you walk away feeling really good. The answer is not to respond in kind. I know you're tempted, I am to be answer. It's not to start arguing with them or fight them or become as mean as they've become your answer is to take your eye off your hater, and put your eyes back on your vision, mission and core values. And if you need to respond, respond in a way that moves your vision, mission and core values for it. That's why I did this podcast today. Because when I thought about it the end of the day, I said rather than talking to the hater directly, I need to talk to my folks, my people, my tribe, builders. And I need to take what I'm learning in the process and share it with you. And let's have a conversation going let's Let's support each other. Let's shore each other up so that we can all keep building. And when you do that, then even your haters, you know, someone said that, that you could take that the successful person takes the bricks that are thrown at them and turns them in and uses them to build something better.

This is an example of that when you anchor in your purpose and you filter any response you make to your haters and through your purpose. It will always be the right thing. He'll take the bricks they throw at you and use them to build something better. And that's how you respond to your haters like a belter. I hope this was helpful for you today. And I'll talk to you next time. 

Hey, if you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at builder ship University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you where you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Inside you'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now, then you need to join buildership University. Just go to buildership university.com and get started writing your school success story today.

Thank you for listening to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast for show notes and free downloads visit https://schoolleadershipreimagined.com/

School Leadership Reimagined is brought to you by Mindsteps Inc, where we build master teachers.